Ann McKechin: Immigration policy must search for love, not cash
IN the 11 years since becoming an MP I have met thousands of constituents who come to me for help with various problems affecting themselves and their families.
Some are easy to resolve, some take a bit of time and some unfortunately I find my hands are completely tied and there is very little I can do to help them.
The worst part of this is when new laws are introduced, the goalposts are changed and ordinary hard working families find their lives turned upside down. Many of these new laws relate to immigration cases which include some truly heartbreaking tales.
Theresa May, the Home Secretary has this week introduced a new set of rules which immediately effect a number of people who have recently contacted me.
She and her Government believe it's appropriate to place a £18,600 minimum income threshold on people hoping to bring in a non-EU spouse, rising to £27,200 for three children. These limits will immediately impact on up to 60 per cent of current applications.
What does this tell people? Poor people can't fall in love? Only the rich deserve to be happy? Poor immigrants are not going to work hard to provide for their families?
This country is built on a rich tapestry of immigration where people have come from places such as Africa, the Caribbean, India and South Asia with very little. They have worked tirelessly and many have built very successful lives for themselves, their families and our communities. Our National Health Service for one owes immigrants a huge debt of gratitude, and this is how they are repaid? With a slur that poor people can't and don't contribute to society?
I'm not married, but finding someone to share your life with is a desire that unites people across the globe. With people working abroad, frequent holidays and the internet, the world has never been so small and the possibilities to find love in the far flung corners of the globe has never been so possible.
We look for shared interests, for chemistry, for companionship, for someone to make us laugh and share our lives with, we do not look for someone who has a minimum of £18,600 in their bank account or any other ridiculous criteria Theresa May comes up with.
We need to start treating each other like human beings, not as statistics.
In addition, couples will now have to live under probation for five years, increased from the current two years to test the genuineness of the relationship - so Theresa May's red tape and bureaucracy now dictates when a couple's life together starts?
I know that we do need to build in protections in our immigration system as there will always be people who try to fraudulently gain access to this country and I have personally come across cases where a foreign spouse has tricked a local resident into marriage and then abused their trust.
That is why we should have checks and balances to ensure only those who are genuine get to come to the UK to live with the person they have fallen in love with, to build a life together and contribute to British society.
But this list of farcical measures will not do anything apart from rip families apart and create misery in people's lives when there is already so much hardship and difficulty.
Government should never dictate who a person can and cannot love.
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